Day 7 Baranca to somewhere in the hills above San Jose de Comandu
This day begins amazingly. I awake from a dream to see the pre-dawn light silhouetting tall Cordon cactus. The yesterday's mountain range stands like a wall in the distance. I rise quickly, and quietly so an so to disturb Shahe, slip on my shoes, grab the old point and shoot digital camera I have been using and head off towards the rising sun, taking as many pictures as I can as the light changes. 20 minutes later, the magic has evaporated with the coming of the day. I switch the camera off, realize my pants are unbuttoned and that I cannot see our camp. I have come a long ways. I use the images in my mind of the pictures that I took to trace my path back to where I see Shahe's dew covered sleeping bag drying on an acacia bush in the sun.
Much, much later, I am waiting for Shahe to change his shoes so that he can push his bike up this steep pitch on the hot, nearly barren mountain. I am thinking of the kind young Padre Isaias of the mission in La Purissima, who invited us in for a fine late breakfast. I am thinking of the my first sight of the Oasis, with it's tall palms and verdant fields. I am not thinking of the road ahead, but like the builders who's rebar extends far above the present height of the church we past, I think with hope for the future. Of making it to the next mission tonight.
In the distance see an arroyo filled with water. We have been riding for hours without helmets, trying to keep our heads cooler. The road marker says "9km". This is a doable distance. After a few more hills in the hot sun, there is a long rocky descent. My bike and style of riding are better suited to this than Shahe's. I careen down the road, bouncing, making split second decisions but never totally out of control. Suddenly, my front wheel buries itself in a pool of dust 6 inches deep, and I am pitched over the handle bars without warning. Everything stops. My hands have broken my fall, but the cleats in my shoes have not been able to Declip from my pedals (too much grit and dryness). I hear Shahe yelling "Are you alright?". He repeats it, but I cannot speak either the wind has been knocked out of me my the weight of the loaded bike or the pain in my right wrist is too great. I feel sick to my stomach but decide it is not broken. All Shahe can see is my head against the rocks. I yet back now that I am fine and struggle to declip and lift myself to my knees. The left one is bleeding abit. My wrist is bad. I breathe away the pain that I can. Shahe suggests that the bombarder should be wearing his helmet. I agree with him and we continue.
Later. Now the road is totally full of bowling ball sized volcanic boulders, strewn here by Hurricane Jimena a few years ago. It is impassible by even 4WD. It is no longer recognizable as a road. We must lift our bikes to roll them forward. We hike down into ravines that have been cut 8 feet below grade. I have learned that Shahe is a faster bike hiker that I am. Still, he is much depressed by our progress. We come upon a goat herding family from which we get 2 bottles of water, for by now we know that we will not make it to the next village. We disinfect it with chlorine. It is the worst tasting water I have ever had. It tastes like pond scum. I cannot drink more than the smallest sip. Night approaches and although I lobby for pushing on (in hopes of water to wash the sticky body that kept me awake in the middle of the last night) I must in the end agree with Shahe. We must stop now, just before dark, somewhere in the hills, an unknown distance from the village. We find a flat place away from the power lines that buzz EMF and set up camp. In the dark, I find that my shrimp cup of noodles can almost drown out the taste of the water I make it with. We have some of Padre Isaias' date bread for dessert, happy to have it and our friendship to share. The stars are pin prick holes in a black curtain as I finish the day's journal...